If you’re getting the sense that the RS4 Avant has been set up as more of a high-speed GT than M3-style track weapon, it’s because Audi Sport’s engineers have designed it that way. Drive the RS4 in maximum attack mode and it’ll struggle to contain its outright body movements. Get on the throttle and the nose will broadly push without nuance, go into bends on the brakes and the body feels a tad loose and lacks composure. Any sense of adjustability on or off the throttle is off the menu at road speeds; the body control dissolves before you have the chance to really start throwing it around.
Calm things down though and the RS4 makes more sense. Audi has significantly improved the chassis’ balance through the generations by a combination of inching its engine further back in the chassis and ditching the heavy V8. As a result, the RS4 feels pretty well balanced, giving engineers a better baseline to develop from. While the optional Dynamic Ride Control doesn’t feel set up for ultimate lateral support, it has given Audi’s engineers the ability to dig deep into the dampers’ range of movement, giving the RS4’s suspension a wonderfully long-legged feel, as if the bump stops are a foot above where you expect.
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Hit severe undulations in the road and the RS4’s wheels feel vacuum-sealed to the road surface, with excellent wheel control and the ability to breathe with the road even on rough and broken surfaces. The dynamic steering is predictable and accurate, its weighting varying between well-considered extremes depending on the mode, but each is well calibrated to the body control. It’s more measured and relaxed than the Merc’s and Alfa’s, and despite the variable ratio it rarely feels out of step with the body when pushing on.
Braking performance on the standard steel items is up to the job on the road, with a nice bite at the top of the pedal and transparency through the travel. For track work, we’d suggest the carbon-ceramic options would be a wise addition, but then we’d probably also suggest an RS4 isn’t the car for that job anyway.
As predicted, the strength of the V6 is its incredible pick-up, regardless of revs, and so keen is it in a low gear that a pre-emptive tug of the upshift lever is required in manual mode if you’re not to snag the limiter. Combine that pace with the security of four-wheel drive, particularly given the RS4 always feels nicely rear-biased, and you have a very quick way of getting you – and four passengers and their luggage – from A to B.